“Not Even Cursed” by Alex Harper
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I’m not even cursed, not like Cassandra was.

It’s just my bad luck
to see pictures of the future
when the future’s very bleak
for those in power.

And they don’t believe me.

The palace scholars tell me
it’s a common problem,
we all reject views that differ
from the image of the world we hold dear.

So the king who wants to gain the crown
of other kingdoms cannot hear
that his campaign will stall
in the mountain pass, where snow
and ambush will end in his slaughter.

And the queen can’t believe
she won’t see her children
married well as she desires,
but the truth is that the royal plague
is coming, like it did a century ago,
to take the gilded ones.
She thinks it’s a myth,
and the princes and princesses
yawn ostentatiously when I tell them
the number of their days
is shorter than they think.

There’s no joy for me in the truth,
I know the chancellor will hang me
and feed my body to the dogs
when what I’ve predicted comes to pass.

People mix up the teller of the future
with the cause, they’ll say
I was a traitor or brought curses,
but I was loyal,
and the gods have never looked my way.

Only the servants like me, because for them
I see good tidings sometimes,
a love affair will blossom, a baby
will survive, a different king and queen
are coming soon, with a kinder rule.
One day the dogs won’t feed on human meat.

“Thank you,” the servants say
and slip me a small coin
and though I know they need it more than me
I take it — it is part of the exchange
and makes them happy, and me too,
or as happy as I can be.

I envy the seer who comes after me
in better, wiser times,
who’ll be believed whatever they say,
who won’t live in shadowed days, as I do.

It’s getting worse: the pictures are relentless now.
It will be soon.

The golden rats are in the port.
The wind is breeding snow.


Alex Harper‘s poems have appeared in Liminality, Mirror Dance, Not One of Us, and The Interpreter’s House. He lives in England, and can be found online at alexharperwriting.wordpress.com and on Twitter as @harpertext.
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